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The VA Claims Intake Center - Western Region
Department of Veterans Affairs
PO Box 5235
Janesville, WI 53547-5235
Toll Free FAX Janesville – 844-822-5246
The VA Claims Intake Center - Eastern Region
Department of Veterans Affairs
PO Box 5235
Newnan, GA 30271-0020
Toll Free Fax Newnan – 844-531-7817
Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQ's)
Recent reports of continued long patient backlogs and repeated retaliation by VA
hospital directors against whistleblowers indicate that the widely publicized
Veterans Affairs reforms instituted last year by the Obama administration have failed
to change a deeply entrenched, self-protective culture.
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sent a letter
to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing deep concerns over Veterans Affairs evaluations
classifying veterans as "mentally defective" and banning them in the federal background
check system from purchasing or owning a firearm. According to Grassley's office,
the VA "reports individuals to the gun ban list if an individual merely needs financial
assistance managing VA benefits," keeping them from exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Twice a day, Koen Hughes’s medicine alarm beeps and sputters. He yells out across the
kitchen to his father, retired Army Staff Sgt. Jonah Hughes, an Iraq war veteran, who suffers
from such a severe brain injury that it’s hard for him to remember things like whether
he showered, and sometimes how to shower.
According to court documents, Garrett picked the 61-year-old veteran off the floor, put him in
bed, twisted his arm behind his back, put a knee in his ribs and threatened to kill him.
As a South Carolina VA patient one of my urine samples had a drug test result that showed NO drugs.
As a result I had to justify renewal of my narcotic pain med and was able to do so.
I sent a secure message asking how that came about and received a written secure
message that succinctly informed me that urine samples are randomly tested for drugs:
that is YOUR confidential medical provider randomly testing you! It does not happen
in the private sector! I urge all veterans to use secure messaging to create an enduring,
unequivocal written record. The VA states among other things that secure messages
are to allow communication between appointments without getting stuck in traffic or
having to travel; and to avoid being limited to normal working hours, being put on hold
and playing phone tag. They can be used 24/7. Written rules require replies within
3 complete federal working days. CAVEAT: save and print you sent message
threads as I have had sent messages deleted and not ever answered.
You mentioned that you're a VA patient in South Carolina. I went to a trusted executive
resource at the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC, Charleston, SC to ask for a definitive statement
about whether or not they conduct any sort of random drug screens.
The reply was a simple, "We do not conduct random drug screens of Veteran patients."
The idea that the VA is conducting random drug screens is widespread. But when we
look at it, it doesn't add up. The first thing that comes to mind is, 'Why would VA do random
drug screens?' That many drug tests would be outrageously expensive. VA doesn't take
away benefits if you smoke some weed so why a random drug screen?
If a veteran gets a drug screen, a provider ordered it. It wasn't random, it was for a reason.
Do you have a benefits question? Ask Jim.
America's Leading Resource For
Military Veterans News & Benefits Information
This Is The Site VA Reads When They
Want To Learn What They've Been Doing
This week's Unique Place is the result of the selfless efforts of a military mom who saw
a need and turned it into a mission to help servicemen and woman worldwide.
Cheryl Lepsch runs the Clothing Room at the Buffalo VA Medical Center.
We like our state to be seen as outstanding – but for positive reasons, not for the
longer-than-average waits its veterans must endure for health care.
This is a situation that requires immediate improvement.
The Associated Press recently analyzed six months of appointment data at 940
VA hospitals and clinics nationwide and found that Eastern
North Carolina was among the places where waits are the worst.
The Veterans Affairs Department expects to spend about $340 million to buy medical
equipment and train staff for its new Denver hospital, on top of the estimated $1.73
billion to build the facility, officials said Saturday.
The $340 million also includes patient beds and furniture, VA spokeswoman Elaine Buehler said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating the way it determines eligibility for VA
health care, a change that will result in more Veterans having access to the health care
benefits they’ve earned and deserve. Effective 2015, VA eliminated the use of net worth
as a determining factor for both health care programs and copayment responsibilities.
This change makes VA health care benefits more accessible to lower-income Veterans
and brings VA policies in line with Secretary Robert A. McDonald’s My VA initiative
which reorients VA around Veterans’ needs.
Cushman v. Shinseki, 576 F.3d 1290 (2009)
Why this is important: This case was probably one of the most important VA cases to
come down in a long time. It established that veterans are entitled to due process
(fundamentally fair) procedures in the processing of claims for VA benefits.
The next step in such a holding is to get definition as to what constitutes due process--
the Executive Branch can make a proposal, the Congress can define it statutorily, or the
Courts can make a judicial determination. The Executive Branch has yet to make such
a proposal, the Congress hasn't acted, so the Courts had an opportunity to define what
due process looks like for veterans in a follow-on case: Veterans for Common
Sense v. Shinseki, which was actually a series of cases (to include 644 F.3d 845, 678 F.3d 1013)
brought as a class action against VA for, among other things, the long wait times in
claims processing. This string of cases looked like a proposed judicial remedy for
VA inaction on the grounds of due process. Unfortunately, the plaintiffs did not
succeed on jurisdictional grounds, rather than on specific legal merit. But, the case provided a legal framework for how such a class action matter alleging due process should be brought.
The Yale Veterans Service Clinic filing is now following up in that regard and is
bringing the matter before the court of appropriate jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals for Veterans
Claims. Followers of veterans law should watch this case closely--it could be very significant.
New VA scandals call into query agency's skill to clean home
Nearly a year after a scandal rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs showing that
VA centers nationwide were “cooking the books” to hide dangerously long patient
wait times and backlogs for benefits, the bad news just keeps on coming --
calling into question the agency’s promise to clean house.
Last summer, amid startling news reports of manipulation, mismanagement and possibly
death caused by failures at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress came
together and passed legislation to overhaul veterans’ access to health care.
The U.S. Department of Education is nearing a deal with Navient Corp., the
student loan giant formerly known as Sallie Mae, over allegations the company
cheated active-duty troops on federal student loans, a department official said Thursday.
A damning report released by the Office of Inspector General elevated the VA scandal,
revealing fraud, waste, and corruption on a scale greater than previously reported.
It’s been nearly a year since reports in April 2014 suggested veterans may have died
waiting for appointments at the Phoenix VA facility, the IG report found that wait times for
thousands had been electronically manipulated by VA staff.
She is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill before a House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
hearing that will examine troubling allegations that the Oakland and Philadelphia regional
offices have mismanaged benefit claims from vets."I'm going to lay it all out for them," said
Brown, a former Oakland Veterans Affairs employee who told her story to this newspaper in
March. "Then it will be up to the government to take that ball and run with it.
After what I've seen the last few years, I have my doubts that anything will get fixed.
But this is all an average person can do."
OIG conducted a review in response to concerns raised by Senator Barbara Mikulski regarding lapses in access and quality of care issues at the VA Maryland Health Care System. The purpose of this review was to determine the extent to which those concerns had merit. We substantiated delayed access for a patient at the Perry Point campus and identified some contributing factors, including insufficient
primary care provider staffing. We substantiated that the system experienced challenges in providing timely access to orthopedic surgical services but had developed an action plan to address these issues prior to our visit. We did not substantiate concerns that a second patient experienced delays in service delivery or cancer diagnosis at the urgent care center at Perry Point. We also did not substantiate
allegations related to a third patient’s diabetes and diabetic neuropathy pain; however, we found that community health care information was not included in the patient’s electronic health record because of provider documentation lapses
and, possibly, a backlog of documents waiting to be scanned. We further found that the system’s policy for tube-feeding nutrition did not comply with all requirements. We made nine recommendations.
Seven years after the 2006 data breach, VA information security employees still reacted with indifference, little sense of urgency, or responsibility concerning
a possible cyber threat incident. Austin Information Technology Center (AITC) OIT employees failed to follow VA information security policy and contract security requirements when they approved VA contractor employees to work remotely and access VA’s network from China and India. One accessed it from China using personally-owned equipment (POE) that he took to and left in China,
and the other accessed it from India using POE that he took with him to India and then brought back to the United States (US). After the Acting CIO learned of this improper remote access, he gave verbal instructions for it to cease; however, VA information security employees at all levels failed to quickly respond to stop the practice and to determine if there was a compromise to any VA data as a result of VA’s network being accessed internationally. Further, we found that a VA employee, as well as other VA contractor employees, improperly connected to VA’s network from foreign locations.
Hours after release of a devastating audit that found top-to-bottom problems with the administration of veterans' pensions in the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs office — including records manipulation — the man most responsible for those failings was promoted to a high-paying job in the department's Washington headquarters.
Instead of using all of a $5 billion fund established by Congress to make the Department of Veterans Affairs more efficient, the VA proposes spending nearly a fifth of the money to compensate for grotesque inefficiency. "Despite scandal after scandal involving VA bureaucrats, they are unwilling to sacrifice a single dime of their bonus money to pay for their mistakes,"
Unfinished Repairs at Veterans Affairs
The 40-mile ‘as the crow flies’ rule has been fixed, but much remains to be done.
VA Regional Office, Boston, Massachusetts
We substantiated that the Veteran Services Officer (VSO), accredited and employed by the Veterans Of Foreign Wars (VFW), Department of Massachusetts, manipulated or
attempted to manipulate dates of claims at the Boston VA Regional Office. We also found evidence indicating the VSO may have engaged in a similar manipulation scheme
at the VARO in Togus, Maine. The VSO secretly date stamped multiple blank documents, providing the opportunity to cut, attach, and photocopy these dates onto claims
documents for other claimants. Manipulation of dates of claims appeared to be a routine practice dating back to at least July 2013. We found about 25 benefits claims in the VSO’s workspace that had not been submitted to the VARO for processing; some of the claims dated back to October 2013. We could not identify claims where the VSO may have
altered the actual dates of claim because there is no audit trail that tracks claims submitted by individual VSOs. Untimely processing by the VSO impedes the VARO’s
ability to initiate required development actions and results in veterans waiting longer for their claim to be processed. The VSO was able to manipulate dates of claims to cover up the untimely submission of claims because VARO management did not ensure only authorized staff accessed and used its date stamping equipment. Additionally, VARO
management did not ensure the keys needed to unlock and operate date stamping machines were securely stored. Rather, keys were stored in unlocked desk drawers
near the date stamping machines. Further, manipulation of dates of claims compromised the data integrity of claims processing timeliness and introduced delays in processing
benefits claims. We recommended the Under Secretary for Benefits implement plans to ensure only authorized staff at the Boston VARO use date stamping equipment and that they receive refresher training on securing date stamping equipment.